Meaningful engagement with the President needed: Venaani

11 Apr 2017 16:50pm
WINDHOEK, 11 APR (NAMPA) – President of the DTA of Namibia, McHenry Venaani has called for ample time and opportunity during the State of the Nation Address to engage with the Head of State on issues of national importance.
President Hage Geingob is expected to deliver his third State of the Nation Address in Parliament Wednesday afternoon.
Speaking at a media briefing here on Tuesday, Venaani said the current format of the Address does not meet its intended purpose.
“The State of the Nation Address was intended to be a platform, firstly for the President to provide a report on the performance of government in the preceding year, and then secondly to serve as a platform to hold the President and the Executive accountable for government policies and performance over that same period.”
According to Article 32 (2) of the Namibian Constitution, after an address that has covered crucial subjects of national interest such as past and future policies of Government, the President shall be available to respond to questions.
In the past, the address has been about one hour long and opposition parties are limited to three questions each, which Venaani said is not enough.
“It does not need explaining that it is impossible to meaningfully engage on and comment on the state of the nation when it is limited to three questions.”
He stressed that issues and concerns that opposition parties would like to raise at such an occasion are of high national importance and driven solely by the genuine desire to seek clarity on matters including the national economy, unemployment, housing, land and corruption.
“Those who have attended last year’s address and others before will further attest that even the limited questions are rarely directly answered,” he fumed, adding the event is not intended to be a pure exercise in speech-making.
Venaani said his party on Tuesday morning wrote a letter to Speaker of the National Assembly, Peter Katjavivi and requested him to give opposition parties ample opportunity to engage with the President.
“In reality, what we have seen in Namibia is that the Speaker, in the absence of clear rules to govern and regulate joint sittings of the National Assembly and National Council, presides over the State of the Nation Address on an ad-hoc basis and the opposition parties are simply expected to comply with his rulings,” said Venaani.
Speculation is rife that opposition parties are to demand clarity on matters including the Small and Medium Enterprises Bank, the inflated price of a fuel storage facility at Walvis Bay and missing money from the Government Institutions Pension Fund (GIPF).